The “extend and pretend” approach of the Treasury Department, through HAMP, has reached its end, and foreclosures are surging higher than ever.

Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis.

The increase in home repossessions came even as the number of properties entering the foreclosure process slowed for the seventh month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3 percent from July and an increase of 25 percent from August 2009, RealtyTrac said.

August makes the ninth month in a row that the pace of homes lost to foreclosure has increased on an annual basis. The previous high was in May.

There are enough homes in delinquency that the properties entering the system slowing will have no material effect on foreclosures increasing. And that shows no signs of abating. What’s more, banks are basically forbearing the first couple months of delinquency, artificially lowering the number of homes entering foreclosure because they don’t want to initiate the process.

Less trial modifications are being taken up through HAMP, as word of mouth spreads that the program is less than helpful at best and a predatory lending scheme at worst. The banks remain reluctant to do affordable workouts, especially with second liens, because they’d rather pretend the profits from them are on the books. They’d rather get something for the homes by returning them to the market, even though sales are at their lowest in 15 years. This giant “shadow inventory” just becomes a loss leader month after month for the banks, as more people just decide not to pay and take the risk of playing foreclosure roulette.

All of this will bring prices down significantly, and there’s not much the government is doing about that. So the “let them fall” brigade will get their chance, even as the banks leak out this inventory slowly. Officials expect 1 million homes will be lost to foreclosure this year.

If you think the economy can recover with this crisis looming, you’re wrong.

UPDATE: This is hilarious, Time has gone from a bubble cheerleader to a serious, sober analyst “rethinking homeownership.” Good one, guys!